On June 30, the country celebrates Armed Forces Day. There will be parades and bands, spectacle and excitement.
As members of the Religious Society of Friends – better known as Quakers – we feel it our concern to offer an alternative view.
We are a body committed to peace and non-violence and find ourselves in a difficult situation in responding to the popular mood. Let there be no misunderstanding, we are wholeheartedly in agreement with the duty to care for the courageous men and women of our armed forces. We know that their families often suffer greatly and undergo deep anxiety while those whom they love are serving in areas of conflict. They deserve our respect and support.
But it is our belief that the pageantry which we will see throughout the country this coming weekend may disguise the realities of armed conflict. It may also lull us into a sense that by turning out for the spectacle, we are doing all that is necessary to support these brave and skilful people.
We believe that the truest care we can give is to explore all means of keeping them out of the way of injury and death. To this end, we wish to state our conviction that we should all take time to examine carefully the causes of conflict, the foreign policies of our governments and the alternatives to armed intervention. We believe that by being sensitive to oppression or grievance, striving always to create consensus, being ready to admit past error, to make reparation and above all, not to see force of arms as a panacea for failed policies, we will do the best service to the members of our armed forces.
It seems appropriate to close with these words from a public statement made in 1987 by Quakers in New Zealand: “We may disagree with the views and actions of the politician or the soldier who opts for a military solution, but we still respect and cherish the person.”
St John’s Street,
Bury St Edmunds.